Home » The Bluegrass region’s healthcare giants are still growing and getting bigger

The Bluegrass region’s healthcare giants are still growing and getting bigger

By Abby Laub

Founded in 1877, Saint Joseph Hospital is Lexington’s oldest continually operating medical care provider.

Healthcare means jobs, innovation, research and the obvious – delivering care to patients who need it – and Central Kentucky is rich in medical resources thanks to giants in the room like UK Healthcare, KentuckyOne Health and Baptist Health Lexington as well as plenty of local hospitals like Georgetown Community Hospital and Ephraim McDowell in Danville that are merely minutes away from residents.

Major hospital expansions are continually growing a medical services sector that’s benefiting residents of Kentucky and beyond. More jobs are one of the results. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly a third of the projected increase in the state’s jobs in the 10 years between 2012 and 2022 will be in the healthcare and social assistance sector.

Broken down to the state level, BLS projects an increase for the sector of 25 percent in Kentucky, an employment spike that translates to 13,300 new jobs for health care support occupations and 25 percent, or just over 19,990 jobs, for health care practitioners and technical professions. Some of this jump is due to demand from the “silver tsunami” of Baby Boomers hitting the 60-and-over age demographic.

Although regional healthcare providers have spent billions in expansions in the past 10 years, more is to come. UK Healthcare’s all new $245 million Research Building 2 (RB2) opened in 2018. Then there is Pavilion A, a $532 million, 550,000-s.f. addition to the UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital, which is being built out years sooner than expected. In early 2018 UK Hospital announced it will seek to add 141 acute-care beds, bringing its total number to 865.

Between 2011 and 2017, UK spent $2.2 billion transforming its campus, with $543 million of that spending being for health care. The investment is paying off, with UK Healthcare’s Chandler Hospital keeping its ranking as the No. 1 hospital in Kentucky and the Bluegrass region for a third consecutive year, according to the 2018 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals Rankings.

That August announcement included four major health care areas achieving top 50 national rankings; endocrinology, cancer, ear, nose and throat and orthopaedics.

Along with the top 50 rankings, UK HealthCare is ranked as high-performing in five other adult specialties – geriatrics; nephrology; neurology and neurosurgery; pulmonology; and urology.

Several blocks away, the Baptist Health Lexington hospital campus announced it intends to add 43 acute care beds to its current 391, costing about $14.4 million.

Innovative health care

Spending money often is an implication of increasing the quality of care, but it also has a lot to do with a hospital’s innovation vision, something that’s not lost on officials at KentuckyOne Health, which operates Lexington’s first hospital, Saint Joseph. Founded in 1877, it has grown into a 433-bed medical center, with a full range of services, including the national award-winning Heart Institute and leading edge da Vinci robotic surgery.

Now the hospital is delivering care virtually and in a way that works for patients.

“We were the first health system in Kentucky to bring virtual primary care – Anywhere Care, which allows patients to see a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner within 30 minutes regardless of whether they are at home, work or anywhere in Kentucky,” said Mary Branham, market director of communications for KentuckyOne Health.

The system also expanded its primary care services to include Saturday walk-in hours and other extended patient hours.

Technology is key in disease prevention today. Kentuckians have the highest rates of lung cancer in the nation, and KentuckyOne offers non-invasive, low-dose CT screenings, which can increase a patient’s chances of survival by nearly 50 percent. The simple screening can detect lung cancer early, at its most treatable stage.

Screening and early detection remain the greatest weapon in the anti-cancer arsenal.

“Breast cancer diagnosis is second only to lung cancer in new types of cancer in Kentucky each year,” Branham said. “Early diagnosis is key to successful treatment and survival. KentuckyOne Health Breast Care offers the highest quality 3D mammography, and Saint Joseph East is the first hospital in the state to offer 3D stereotactic biopsy, which is performed following an abnormal mammogram. KentuckyOne Health Imaging on Tates Creek Road offers walk-in mammogram service; no appointment necessary for screening mammograms.”

The hospital also is focused on diagnosing diabetes and offering resources to prevent the disease.

Saint Joseph Hospital also is known for its robotic surgery program, Saint Joseph East is home to three da Vinci Xi robots, the most advanced technology available for minimally invasive surgery. These facilities offer many procedures using the da Vinci Xi robotic surgical system, which allows patients to have shorter hospital stays, faster recoveries and minimal scarring. KentuckyOne Health has the largest and most comprehensive robotic surgery program in the region.

In December of 2017, the Surgical Review Corporation named Saint Joseph East, part of KentuckyOne Health, a Center of Excellence in Robotic Surgery. Saint Joseph East is the only hospital in Central Kentucky to receive this designation.

Last year KentuckyOne Health redirected its primary focus on its Central and Eastern Kentucky facilities when in May it announced plans to sell Jewish Hospital and associated facilities in Louisville. The revamped structure of KentuckyOne Health is built around Central Kentucky providers like Saint Joseph Hospital, Saint Joseph East, Saint Joseph Jessamine, Saint Joseph Mount Sterling, Saint Joseph London and Saint Joseph Berea, as well as KentuckyOne Health Partners Clinically Integrated Network and KentuckyOne Health Medical Group provider practices.

“Our network of facilities and clinics across Central and Eastern Kentucky provides the opportunity to deliver a unique network of care closer to the patient’s home.” Branham said. “Our parent company, Catholic Health Initiatives, allows even greater access to financial resources in order to offer the latest in technology, and broader access to sharing best practices with providers across the country.”

Leveraging data for better outcomes

Sometimes healthcare innovation means pooling resources and sharing best practices, a system that UK’s Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network has mastered. Hundreds of doctors, researchers and staff at 20 facilities around Kentucky are all fighting cancer using shared best practices, procedures, expertise and clinical research. All of their thousands of patients have access to treatments that have earned Markey a prestigious National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation.

The network is especially important for Kentucky, where overall cancer rates are the highest in the nation, especially for lung cancer. Founded in 2006 with three member facilities, the system provides high-quality Markey cancer care closer to home for patients and lessens cancer’s impact through prevention and education programs, exceptional clinical care, and access to research.

“How the network really started was Markey Cancer establishing clinical relationships with other facilities to deliver care in areas that didn’t have cancer care,” said Dr. Tim Mullett, the network’s medical director. “As we have evolved, we’ve gone to facilities that are farther into Eastern Kentucky and in larger facilities. And since our National Cancer Institute designation, things have really dramatically changed. We really began to look at how to help these programs increase their overall quality of care and make sure that the cancers that can be, are treated close to home.”

What makes the network unique is its two-way data street between Markey and its statewide affiliates. Patients in the Market network are afforded access to clinical trials and groundbreaking tumor gene sequencing.

Better care, delivered

In April 2018, Kentucky Children’s Hospital (KCH) unveiled the new Makenna Foundation Welcome Center and Betti Ruth Robinson Taylor Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital. This spacious center includes patient and visitor registration, a gift shop, a digital interactive wall, and a large-scale art installation called “Exuberance,” which is comprised of marble-filled kites suspended from the ceiling.

Beyond the welcome center is the new Betti Ruth Robinson Taylor Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This 36,000-s.f. facility replaces the current NICU on the KCH’s fourth floor. The new facility will allow the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit to expand into the newly vacated space.

Also in April, UK HealthCare launched new clinic space to house its expanding Integrative Medicine & Health program. The UK Integrative Medicine & Health program uses traditional medical therapies and practices, while also recognizing the interaction between the patient’s mind, body and spirit.

“I see it as the medicine that our grandmothers taught us,” said Dr. Connie Jennings, medical director of the UK Integrative Medicine & Health program, in a press release. “It’s the medicine we already know; it’s inside us. We want to help people stop and listen.”

The program has grown substantially in the past five years as physicians and patients alike seek out complementary therapies, like music and art therapies, for the treatment of certain illnesses. Jennings notes that the opioid crisis has played a part in the growth in the popularity of integrative medicine as well, as it offers a viable alternative to pain medicine in many patients.

Oftentimes the opioid crisis is linked to behavioral health, and it’s a field growing rapidly. In 2016, the KentuckyOne Health system – with hospitals in Louisville, Lexington, Bardstown, Berea and London – expanded access to its services at Our Lady Of Peace psychiatric hospital in Louisville to help meet the rising demand. OLOP, which offers free assessments, has opened a second assessment and referral center location in Lexington. It also offers telehealth assessment services.